Communities left defenseless against fracking

The Colorado Supreme Court will soon decide whether communities can ban fracking locally. Since the impacts of fracking -- like air and water pollution -- are felt locally, communities deserve the ability to protect themselves from this harmful process. 

Michael Carter

The ability of Colorado communities to protect themselves from fracking will soon be decided by the state Supreme Court. This case mirrors the battles seen in other states where communities sought to defend their right to local control.

Fracking’s worst impacts are often felt at the local level. In communities like the small town of Pavillion, Wyoming, chemicals used in fracking have been found in groundwater at levels high enough for state officials to advise against drinking the water.[1] In Oklahoma, underground fracking wastewater injection has been linked to an increase from two earthquakes a year to two earthquakes a day.[2] And in Wyoming, air pollution from fracking reaches levels so high some days that residents are advised to stay inside.[3]

As industry pushes to expand fracking at frenzied rates, we’ve seen thousands of instances of water contamination, increasing toxic wastewater spills, and a spike in earthquakes. And it’s no surprise Longmont, Fort Collins, and communities across Colorado and the rest of the country are fighting to maintain their right to decide whether, where, and how dirty drilling occurs.

After voters passed measures to prevent fracking in Longmont and Fort Collins, lower county courts overturned their decisions and the cases have now made it all the way to the state Supreme Court. 

Unfortunately in places like Texas, Ohio, and Oklahoma state courts and legislatures have struck down local control of fracking. Communities deserve the right to defend themselves from dangerous fracking and the air and water pollution that comes with it. The rejection of local bans leaves them vulnerable.

In Ohio, the state Supreme Court decision prompted 100 mayors, county commissioners, city councilors, state legislators, and other local elected officials to join Environment America in issuing a letter to Governor John Kasich calling for local control of dangerous fracking operations. And in states across the country, Environment America is recruiting more and more local electeds to stand up in support of local control. 

As more and more communities attempt to ban or regulate fracking, the oil and gas industry is fighting back by buying state officials with campaign contributions to maintain the ability to frack wherever they want.[4] In places like Denton, Texas, this has come at a high price; air quality tests have shown unsafe levels of benzene, a chemical released by fracking operations, and wells in this small town are found as close as 250 feet away from residences.[5] Denton was refused the right to ban fracking, despite the large outcry from residents concerned with their health. 

The real solution to these health concerns is for states to follow the example of New York by passing a statewide ban of fracking, but in the meantime, state governments should stop preventing communities from protecting their citizens from fracking’s worst impacts. 

Colorado’s current fracking case could be an important step in not only affirming local control, but in protecting the health of communities and families. The Colorado Supreme Court can either choose to side with the dirty drilling companies or with the communities who seek to protect their health. 

[1]Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Pavillion EPA Pavillion Groundwater Investigation, 9 November 2011

[2]Lorraine Chow, “Fracking Increases Oklahoma Earthquakes from Two a Year to Two a Day,” Alternet, 22 September 2015

[3]Dustin Bleizeffer, “Despite Ozone Spikes, More Drilling Proposed in Wyoming Community,” Stanford, 17 May 2011

[4]Eric Lipton, “Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General” New York Times, 6 December 2014.

[5]Emily Mathis, “Fracking Emission Carcinogens Found in Denton Playground,” Dallas Observer, 1 October 2014



Michael Carter